October 9, 2010


Obama ultimatum makes Assad responsible for any Hizballah violence in Lebanon

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 9, 2010, 10:27 AM (GMT+02:00)
Tags:  Barack Obama   Bashar Assad   Hizballah   Lebanon 
US diplomat Frederic Hof in Damascus
debkafile exclusive from Washington and Beirut: Early Friday, Oct. 8, senior US diplomat Frederic Hof landed in Damascus with a strong ultimatum from US President Barack Obama warning Syrian President Bashar Assad that he would be held personally responsible for military action Hizballah may pursue in Beirut or any other part of Lebanon; there would be consequences for the Syrian ruler's standing in Washington and that of his country.
After delivering the message, Obama's emissary was told to remain in Damascus and keep close tabs on the situation over the coming days.  Fred Hof is the deputy of US Special Middle East envoy George Mitchell with excellent connections in top Syrian circles. By keeping him in Damascus, Obama makes sure his personal emissary sits on Assad's back and sends him fast updates on any developments in Syria and Lebanon.
The Syrian ruler will be tested next week, when his great ally, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, spends two days in Lebanon on a visit that has aroused feverish tensions in the country and around the region.
President Obama had four objects in mind when he posted his exceptionally tough ultimatum:
1. The Syrian and Iranian presidents have been leaning hard on Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah to strike as soon as Ahmadinejad is gone to grab Lebanon's centers of power and burn the ground from under Saad Hariri's government.
2.  This action carries the high risk of civil war or Israeli military intervention, both of which the Obama administration is intent on averting.
3.  When US diplomats asked Arab League foreign ministers gathered in Sirte, Libya, Friday not to slam the door on direct Israel-Palestinian talks, they were informed by the Saudi and Egyptian ministers that this issue was inextricably bound up with the crisis in Lebanon. If Washington agreed to step in firmly to preserve the stability of the Hariri administration, they would see to it that the US is given time to overcome the impasse on the Israeli-Palestinian track over Israeli construction on the West Bank and Jerusalem.
And indeed, the Sirte meeting, while endorsing Mahmoud Abbas' position, gave Washington a month's grace for another push to bring the parties together.
4.  The Damascus mission assigned to Hof and the threat it carries of direct American steps against the Assad regime, is unprecedentedly harsh in terms of Washington diplomacy vis-à-vis any Arab government.
debkafile's diplomatic sources note that it is also a challenge.
It indicates that Obama is willing to respect the Syrian ruler's responsibility for Lebanon provided he respects the policy limits Washington has laid down for that country. This challenge would require him to break ranks with the Iranian president and Hizballah's leader and pull out of the trilateral plans they have drawn up for undermining the Hariri government. By doing so, Assad would prove that his influence over Nasrallah outweighs that of Iran.
The coming week will show if the US president's ultimatum has hit the mark and Lebanon and the region are saved from impending outbreaks of violence.  He did not spell out the nature of the consequences to Assad for disobedience.  


Israeli troops kill Hamas' West Bank commanders, hunt "Syrian" cell leader
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report October 8, 2010, 12:52 PM (GMT+02:00)
Tags:  Hamas terror   Hebron   IDF 
Israeli forces wipe out Hamas West Bank terror chiefs in Hebron
Israel's manhunt for the Hamas terrorists responsible for the latest string of West Bank attacks ended Friday, Oct. 8 in a gun battle in Hebron and the deaths of Hamas' West Bank commander Nashat Al-Karmi and his lieutenant Mamoun Al-Natshe, thereby snapping Hamas' militant backbone in the territory and cutting short its drive to sabotage Israel-Palestinian talks with violence. debkafile's counter-terror sources report that the Hamas cell leader smuggled in from Syria for the drive-by attacks which killed four Israelis and injured two others, managed to escape. The pursuit for him continues.
The two were killed when Israeli troops backed by Shin Bet operatives, air cover and the police anti-terror squad  closed in on three Hebron houses in which the wanted Hamas terrorists were holed up and refused to surrender. One of the houses was bulldozed and several occupants detained.
debkafile's counter-terror sources reveal: Nashat Al-Karmi, aged 34, was born in Hebron and lived there with his wife. He graduated from the local college with a degree in technological engineering. His first brush with Israeli troops occurred in 1999 when he was picked up in a counter-terror swoop and spent three years in jail. In 2004 he suffered a serious gunshot wound to the stomach and was confined to a wheelchair.
Exceptionally secretive, Al-Karmi escaped having his photo taken, never used a telephone or even a cell and preferred to go into terrorist action solo.
On Sept. 17, an Israeli unit raid on the Nur al-Shams refugee camp near Tulkarm, failed to discover Al-Karmi but killed another Hamas operative.
Our intelligence sources disclose that the Hamas terrorist showed his hand once too often this year in a shooting attack on two Israeli vehicles at the Omarim junction south of Hebron on Sept. 26, in which two Israelis were injured. The attack took place on the day Israel's settlement construction freeze expired. It was clearly the work of a lone shooter, Al-Karmi's most distinctive hallmark, and gave his Israeli pursuers a solid lead to the hand behind the latest outbreak of terrorist activity on the West Bank.
debkafile's sources stress that by wiping out Hamas' top West Bank command, Israel has also shown up as spurious Hamas' latest propaganda effort to demonstrate its superiority to Israel's Shin Bet and claim to have smashed Israel's covert networks in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas leaders were about to hold a news conference and lay out an array of covert gadgets, specially-rigged walkie-talkies and telephones, electronic bugs and surveillance gear, claiming they had been found in the possession of Shin Bet undercover agents. This campaign took several months to set up. It hit a high point Thursday, the day before Israel's Hebron operation, when the Egyptian Al Ahram ran a story describing how Hamas unmasked an Israeli agent who had penetrated top Hamas ranks and hoped to find the secret prison where Gilead Shalit, the Israeli soldier Hamas kidnapped in 2006 is held.
Al Ahram appended its own epilogue to the Hamas tale. The Shin Bet pulled its agent out of the Gaza Strip before Hamas security officials could lay hands on him, said the Cairo paper. Clearly, Egypt is not inclined to let Hamas get away with posing as masters of intelligence. While Hamas has vowed revenge for the Israeli operation in Hebron, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak congratulated the army and Shin Bet unit for their success in hunting down the terrorists who murdered Yitzhak and Talia Imus, Cochava Even-Haim and Avishi Schindler of Beit Haggai on the road near the Ben-Naim junction near Hebron on Aug. 31. A second attack left a couple seriously injured.